Gardens Illustrated
Sarah Raven
© Jonathan Buckley

Sarah Raven picks seven of her favourite dahlias

Published: September 15, 2022 at 9:36 am
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We visited Sarah Raven's Perch Hill and now we hear from Sarah about some of her favourite Dahlia varieties.

We visited Perch Hill, the home of Sarah Raven to see her garden in full bloom. In September, the test beds are full of the dahlias for which Sarah is so well known. We couldn't help but ask what it is that makes dahlias such special plants, and get a few recommendations of Sarah's favourites.

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What is it that you most love about dahlias?

There's just sort of every colour and shape and size of Dahlia. And that is, I guess, one of the main reasons I love them — there is a dahlia for everybody. There are a few ugly dahlias, with too much going on (I’ll name no names, in case I later change my mind!), and it’s true that they can get munched by slugs and I know that some people don’t like the smell… but you can’t let these minor things put you off.

Our newly mild winters mean that dahlias can be treated much like a perennial; in all but the coldest, highest and wettest spots, they can be left in the garden through the winter in the UK — and there is then no more generous, lower-maintenance flowering plant. Dahlias are all prolifically cut-and-come-again, but most of all I love them for providing an incredible party of glamour and richness just when most things plants in the garden are fading away.

Blow Ladies Day at Ascot, with a good few dahlias planted in your garden, you’ll have every fascinator, silk dress and even ball gown to luxuriate in right outside your door.

Would you recommend a few of your favourites for our readers?

Dahlia 'Lou Farman'

Dahlia 'Lou Farman'
© Jonathan Buckley

This is our most recently bred dahlia, named after my long-standing business partner and dear friend. I adore this large-flowered single dahlia.

Dahlia 'Molly Raven'

Dahlia 'Molly Raven'
© Jonathan Buckley

A fantastic variety which kind of has everything - it's a great cut flower with better than average vase life, is compact enough (just!) to fit well in a large pot and has dark foliage as well as wonderful soft two-tone flowers. The only thing is, as a double, it's not full of nectar for the pollinators, unlike most of this list.

Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine'

Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine'
© Jonathan Buckley

This is a truly marvellous dahlia that we had filling the garden at Perch Hill last year. I adore this soft terracotta orange and the similar, but more compact 'Josie', bred by us to be suited to growing in pots with flowers in a clear, intense orange.

Dahlia 'Waltzing Mathilda'

Dahlia 'Waltzing Mathilda'
© Jonathan Buckley

A wonderful dahlia with a relaxed, informal shape. A beautiful peach to flame and coral colour above black-crimson foliage. I absolutely love it.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Auckland'

Dahlia 'Bishop of Auckland'
© Jonathan Buckley

The perfect dahlia, with velvety, crimson, single flowers and dark crimson leaves. Very busy with pollinators.

Dahlia 'Penhill Dark Monarch'

Dahlia 'Perhill Dark Monarch'
© Jonathan Buckley

A mix of soft apricot, coffee mousse and raspberry in this 'Café au Lait'-style and size of dahlia.

Dahlia 'Labyrinth'

Dahlia 'Labyrinth'
© Jonathan Buckley

Well I never thought I'd like this one, but I absolutely love it - like the Queen Mother's hat, with beautiful curvy petals, it is glamorous and head-turning.

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Don't miss our guide on how to grow dahlias

Authors

Molly Blair
Molly Blaireditorial and digital assistant

Molly is the Gardens Illustrated's editorial and digital assistant. She has a roof garden and has her RHS level 2.

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